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successfully, he blew two long whistles and a short to salute custom air and passing the forts, this was not only cute but intelligent in trying to sneak by. they closely bonded, as you can imagine this arrest toe cat duponts and the former slave robert smauls. robert smalls also had information concerni information -- confederates wer eevacuating the mouth of the river. this was important that the british followed during the revolution. he ordered the commander to investigate confirmed what smalls reported and a week after small's escape the union vessels entered the river.
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the move into the river will result ain an event al attack by u.s. army forces. they will be defeated. the army will evacuate but the navy will keep up a presence throughout the war. in the meantime, besides the military, actions that are going on, there is going to be this sort of start of reconstruction. i'm not going to go into a great deal of this. but part of this will be taking smalls to the north. to help raise public knowledge.
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slaves could be part of this military force. smalls is the perfect example of this. dupont was weary of this. he said if you are going to do this, you might as well turn robert over to bartam and let him put him on display. the frepnch wanted a moral impression. at the same time dupont could not spare him. he also thanks to dupont, smalls and the male members of the vessel coming out will receive prize money.
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prize money is something that would be taken to a prize court. then the value of the ship, smalls and the other dupont bro the secretary of the navy suggested that the others make the prize money available to them. he eventually purchased the home of his former master. another key player will arrive in buford at this time. this is going to be general rue fu rufus saxton. he will work closely with
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fansfield french with others to carry out a rehearsal for reconstruction and the raising of black troops at port royal. >> they return with a directive to begin raising 5,000 black soldiers in the region's former slaves. the planter was a wood burning vessel. and the navy primarily used coal
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french was escorting he and his family to new york. dupont was very worried about this. and he wrote this wife, i took for granted that robert smalls wa wanted to go. but he came to know if he was going to lose this place here as pilot for my vessels. and i came to think you are the most superior negro that i have ever met. i told him you need not go to the north unless you wish it. i told him if you return in a month i would take him on again as a pilot. he said he would again go with mr. french. unless he promised to have him back in three weeks he would not go. robert.
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you would see how the navy officers have treated you. giving you work and are kind in your feelings. they will always be your friends. the reply was sprtriking. it is because i know this that i have come to see you today. my best friends are in the navy and aboard the ship. he did return one of dupont's top assistants and ask eed him. has your head been turned. it was turned but one way all the time that i was in the north. toward port royal. he will join the nav al
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expedition. she looked like a monitor. she was likely armored. she had the lightest draft so her captain directed smalls to take her as close as possible to fort sumpter. for 30 minutes she was struck 90 times. 119 pound boat crashed into her pilot house. this is where robert smalls would have been. that night thee was in sinking condition. the defeat made smalls dried to think so near to give up the fight. the next day the kiokuk will sink. the loser of the battle will be
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replaced and smalls will be tra trans ferred over to the army to serve onboard the army's vessels. the largest vessels in the world were operated by the army. 7,000 vessels. they are going to be part of the movement that will be prepared to launch the attack against charleston in july of 1863. the planter smalls serving on boards the planter as her pilot will carry troops, supplies back and forth between port royal. after the campaign, they were operating near the mouth of the river when lieutenant colonel
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elwell directed the captain of the planter to go to an area where she could come under enemy fire. he ordered his removal and stated sir, you will please place robert smalls in charge of the united states transport planter as captain. he brought her out of charleston harbor more than a year ago r running under the defenses of that strong hold. he is an excellent pilot and worthy of the position. this is due him of the proper recognition of his heroism and services. the kurpt captain is a coward though a white man. general gilmore the department commander immediately approved the order and added luster to small's clear. from this point on until the end
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of the war small will serve as captain of the planter working for what would be $150 a month that would be $3,000 to $4,000 a month. very good pay then. he will be part of the movement into florida in june of 1864. he will have this first taste in politics at a meeting in buford. he was selected by the union people of south carolina. the coalition of republicans and democrats who backed the lincoln government. however, he will not attend the conference. the army will defend him to take the army to philadelphia so he will not actually go to baltimore to be at the convention, but the other
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delegates did and some considered them to be the first integrate integrate ed delegation. they will not be allowed to vote. but it gets a little bit of a forewarning of political events in the low country. when work was finished on the plan ter smalls and the vessel returned to port royal. he will be there when general william's forces reach savannah and help refit sherman's army and help transport half of the forces to the town of buford. they will be smalls will be part of moving people up to the city of charleston after charleston is captured. he will be there when the flags
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are again risen are again risen over ft. sumter. and i just sort of want to end with this little comment. this is a description of robert smalls when they raised the flags over ft. sumter on april 14th, 1865, smalls and the planter are in the harbor, and this is a participant wrote about this, that he saw the planter, he saw robert smalls. the paddle wheeler was crowded almost to suffocation upon her three decks with freed men who hung over the gunnells mounted on the post, peering through the gangways, darkening the wheel house upon the top of which robert smalls, a prince among them, self-possessed, prompt and proud, giving his orders to the helmsman in ringing tones of command. robert smalls and the planter will be part of the freedman brew's work along the coast. he will take the planter to baltimore where she is sold, and
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eventually smalls and the planter will return to south carolina. the planter will continue on as a transport along the coast, and robert smalls will then you might say start the next phase of his career. [ applause ] >> okay. i guess that's my cue. robert smalls obviously had a tremendous career, made a very significant impact on this country, and left us a large legacy. i can just sort of recite some of the things that he did. but even that wouldn't even touch in any way the fullness and the breadth of his impact on late 19th century america. again, most of us know he served five terms in congress. he served in the south carolina senate. he served in the south carolina
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house. and, of course, he was the collector of customs for the port of buford. but beyond those things, he provides us with sort of an understanding and a way of reinterpreting reconstruction, a way of reinterpreting the civil rights movement. now -- so he sort of brings together those two fields. you heard dr. powers allude to his being sort of the precursor to the second reconstruction because of what he did in the 19th century. well, let me start this way by talking about reconstruction and robert smalls' a role in it. you'll see how these two things come together in terms of how he has influenced american historiography. in 1909, w.e.b. dubois spoke before the american historical association in new york city. he did a presentation called
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"reconstruction and its benefits." and this essay or this presentation was actually published a year later in 1910 in the american historical review. in it, he offered one of the first revisionist interpretations of reconstruction. now, the general consensus in 1909, early 20th century, in fact, almost up to the 1960s was that reconstruction was one of the worst periods in the history of this country, that reconstruction was characterized by corrupt carpetbaggers and scalawags and a ignorant negros who misruled the south, who stole money, who lined their pockets and basically misgoverned the south. the idea was as one historian put it was that by allowing african-americans like robert
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smalls to participate in government, barbarism had been put in place over civilization. well, dubois countered that interpretation, in fact challenged it thoroughly. he outlined that the so-called ignorant negroes who had served in the governments in the south during this period had made three very important contributions. they had brought about the first democratic governments in the south. they had established the first republic schools, and they had passed new social legislation. and as many of you know, robert smalls did all three of those things. and of course as one of those so-called ignorant negroes, he, for example, proposed the legislation to create south carolina's public schools. he proposed several civil rights bills, and i'll go through those with you. and indeed, he tried to bring
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about democracy in south carolina for the first time in the history of this state. robert smalls was especially interested in dealing with civil rights in south carolina. now, you heard my colleague steve talk about his big in philadelphia in july of 1864. we had an interesting incident occur to him in philadelphia as he was taking -- as he was taking the planter to the philadelphia shipyard to be repaired. he tried to catch the streetcar to the shipyard, and he and a white sailor were actually ejected from the streetcar, that is they did not allow african-americans in philadelphia to ride the streetcars in 1864. this had a tremendous impact on smalls.
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in addition, it had a tremendous impact on the city of philadelphia. african-americans had been trying for several years to gain access to riding the streetcars in philadelphia. but it took smalls and his notoriety, his fame to actually make it happen. that is, the word spread and hit the newspapers that here is a civil war hero who cannot ride the streetcars in philadelphia. so it prompted a boycott of the streetcars by even some whites in philadelphia, which then eventually led to african-americans gaining the right to ride the streetcars in philadelphia in 1867. smalls, as you know, was part of the constitutional convention that took place in south carolina in 1868. and as i said, he proposed the legislation to create the state's free public school system. then he also helped to pass a
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law that brought south carolina in line with the civil rights bill that the u.s. government had passed in 1866. of course, the civil rights act of 1866 was a measure to get rid of the black codes and basically to enforce the 13th amendment. while also serving in the state legislature, smalls in 1869 and 1870 proposed the state's first civil rights legislation. and this was a measure to ensure that african-american citizens could use public accommodations in the states without being discriminated against. and this measure actually stayed in the state constitution until 1889 when it was repealed. then 1876, he did something else very interesting.
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when the army a -- a bill to reorganize the army was being considered by the house, he added an amendment which said that if -- that the army could not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, and also that race should not be considered when people of course join the army. now smalls was definitely ahead of his time, because as we know, the army in the u.s. military didn't desegregate until 1949. but here in 1876, as i said, smalls was trying to force the army to desegregate. but unfortunately, the amendment a was voted down. in 1884, he proposed another amendment. this was an amendment to license liquor dealers in washington, d.c. -- excuse me, a law to
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license liquor dealers in washington, d.c. and smalls added the amendment that those who sold liquor in washington, d.c. could not discriminate in the establishments. they had to sell it to everybody. and of course his purpose for doing that was to open up restaurants and taverns to african-americans so that they could go and use any public accommodations that they wanted. this also, of course, was taken out of the law. now one of the things that smalls was concerned with was the right to vote. in 1890, he wrote an article in the north american review called "election methods in the south." and of course in that article he castigated the state of south carolina for its efforts or for the events and activities that had taken place between 1876 and
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1890 to disenfranchise african-americans. he talked about the eight box law, for example, in this particular article. this was the law where african-american, of course voters in general, but more specifically african-americans had to come and make sure -- they had eight a different ballot boxes. you had to make sure when you cast your vote, that you put your ballot in the right box or it wouldn't count. he also of course castigated the state of south carolina for allowing the klan and the rifle clubs in the upstate areas, the democratic rifle clubs to sort of run rampant and to shoot and kill african-americans as they tried to vote. he called on benjamin harrison who was the president at that time to enforce the law, to defend the right to vote in the state of south carolina and in the south in general.
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were you trying to get my attention? okay. so smalls -- smalls, then, gives us an understanding then of how the civil rights movement that is in the goals of the movement extended back past 1954. now we historians, we argue a back and forth over this issue of when did the civil rights movement begin. and of course those of us who believe that the civil rights movement is a long movement. i had one colleague say to me that the civil rights movement started when the first slave got off the boat. but then most people, though, will say it started in 1954 with the brown decision and the montgomery bus boycott. well, the long civil rights movement, though, actually does go back to people like robert
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smalls who indeed were trying to pass and propose legislation that would give african-americans equal opportunity to work, equal opportunity and public accommodations as you have heard. equal access to the ballot, and basically, dignity. and smalls' own life sort of sets the tone for that in that he was a fighter. he challenged discrimination every opportunity and every chance that he got. now some of you, as you heard helen say this morning, i worked with her family to develop the exhibition that is now at the charleston museum. so i spent a year with robert smalls, you might say. that is, reading all of his works, looking for his pictures, reading everything that i could about him. and again, as you have heard,
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this man was a very unique individual in that he put to lie some of the beliefs about slavery in this country, some of the beliefs about african-american talent and abilities in this country at a time basically when most people felt if you were black you were inferior. in fact, smalls had one of his colleagues in the house tell him that of course, he challenged him on the spot. so robert smalls, as i said, has had a tremendous impact on the historiography of reconstruction and on the civil rights movement. he has allowed us as historians to use his life as an example and to challenge the nonsense about ignorant negroes, to challenge the nonsense about african-americans being made and wanting to be slaves and loving their masters, although i have to say smalls did try to bail
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out the mckees a couple of times. but again, that doesn't mean that he loved them in the way that they said slaves love their masters in the 19th century. so with that, i'll pass it on to -- go ahead. [ applause ] >> good evening. hi, i'm delighted to be here with you and to bring greetings to you from our founding director, lonnie g.baunch at the african-american museum of history and culture. and i've been asked to talk about robert smalls and the future. and he does have a future with the national museum of african-american history and culture. let me begin by talking about the history and mission of the museum. the national museum of african-american history and
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culture was established in 2003 as the 19th museum of the smithsonian institution, the largest museum complex and research organization in the world. its mission is to provide for the collection, study, and establishment of programs and exhibitions related to african-american life, art, history, and culture. enacted through congressional legislation, this museum represents a national initiative of profound cultural importance that will impact this nation for generations to come. the museum will bridge a major gap in our national memory by creating exhibitions and programs focusing on a wide arc of history. slavery, reconstruction, the harlem renaissance, the great migrations to the north and west, segregation, civil rights and a beyond it also will
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celebrate african-american creativity and cultural expressions through art, dance, theater, and literature. the museum will be located on a five acre site adjacent to the washington monument on the national mall. in washington, d.c. home to the world's largest collection of museums and at the center of one of the most public spaces of the nation. scheduled to open in 2015, the museum exists today through a vast array of programs nationwide, including special exhibitio exhibitions, an online presence, and numerous educational a programs. in vision, in many ways there are few things as powerful and important as a people, as a
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nation that is steeped in its history. often america is celebrated as a place that forgets. this museum seeks to help all americans remember, and by remembering, this institution will stimulate a dialogue about race and help to fosse area spirit of reconciliation and healing. there are four legs on which this museum will stand. the first is to create an opportunity for those that care about african-american culture, to explore and revel in that history. second, equally important is the opportunity to help all americans see just how central african-american history is to all of us. the museum will use african-american history and culture as a lens into what it means to be an american.

July 7, 2012 12:00am-12:30am EDT

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